Church sex screening

Adelaide, Australia - A NEW screening process for ministers and lay office holders in the Adelaide Diocese of the Anglican Church is among the most rigid in Australia.

The Safe Ministry Check, designed to weed out pedophiles in the church, is the first major initiative of new Anglican Archbishop Jeffrey Driver.

Finalised this week, the 10-page questionnaire is now in place for new ministers and lay office holders and is likely to also be extended to all church office holders. Archbishop Driver said yesterday the Adelaide diocese was among the first in Australia to implement the screening initiative, which was discussed at last year's general synod.

"I think if you compare it with the sorts of background checks in other organisations, it is pretty rigorous," he said.

"Nothing is foolproof. It is just part of ensuring that our screening processes are as thorough as we can possibly make them."

The key section of the document involves 27 questions, including asking if the applicant has ever been charged or convicted of a criminal offence, sexual misconduct or sexual harassment.

Another asks the applicant if they have ever done anything in the "past or present that may result in allegations being made against you of child abuse?"

Once completed the document is stored securely within the diocese. It is only used for screening or church disciplinary procedures, but it states if required by law to produce the material the church will comply.

The Safe Ministry Check has been introduced simultaneously with a new code of conduct for all clergy which formally sets out the professional standards the church expects the clergy to uphold.

Archbishop Driver said since revealing a fortnight ago he was introducing the measures feedback from within the diocese had been "generally good".

"People understand the need and the clergy for the most part, those who have spoken to me, have been supportive," he said.

He also revealed a series of formal education and awareness sessions for clergy would also start early next year to complement the code of conduct and the screening process.

"It is part of a whole package of changing the culture of the church, educating people, putting in better process and ensuring the processes are known," Archbishop Driver said.